ANONYMOUS: On assault narratives

Editors’ note: It is the policy of the News not to publish anonymous stories. For these two cases, an exception has been made. The names of both writers have been kept confidential to give them the chance to speak freely and to ensure that the people they write about are also kept anonymous. The editors know the identities of the writers and have confirmed their stories to the greatest extent possible.

The night of my Freshman Screw, a friend attempted to rape me. To use a phrase from Patrick Witt’s press release, we had an “on-again, off-again” relationship. We’d met in front of my dorm in Old Campus in August, become closer in “Introduction to Political Philosophy,” and we kissed for the first time in the L-Dub courtyard. I had visited him when he was sick over winter break.

Running down the stairs of his dorm after he had dismissed my repeated insistence that I did not want to have sex with him, I screamed at him, asking why he would do this to me. He tried to justify himself: “You’re just so beautiful.”

I now have a much firmer grasp on how the reporting mechanisms at Yale work. At the time, I knew nothing. I decided to report the assault because my assailant was harassing me — texting me constantly, trying to track my location down through my roommate — and for the very practical reason that he was in a seminar with me. I chose to go before the now-defunct Sexual Harassment Grievance Board (SHGB) because it was the only mechanism my freshman counselor knew about.

The SHGB encouraged me to pursue an informal complaint. In retrospect, that may very well have been the right path, and I’m glad Yale provides this option. I can understand why a survivor would prefer a quiet, short process; reporting informally to the SHGB allowed me to stop the harassment quickly, and the student agreed to measures to stop contact. I’m also not sure that I would have chosen to report at all if an informal, contained procedure had not been guaranteed, given the stigmatization of sexual violence very much alive on our campus.

But I resent that I was pressured toward one specific route among many, largely because the board clearly did not think my case was serious enough for a formal or criminal complaint. I was told it wouldn’t be worth the emotional pain of going to the police or ExComm. When I presented my main evidence — a series of communications from my assailant admitting to wrongdoing and constituting, as I later learned from a lawyer, stalking — one member remarked that my assailant was clearly in love with me. Before I left my meeting with the board, I was told to tell no one, because word might get around.

I received similar responses from the small group of friends I eventually told. While some were supportive, others encouraged me not to “overreact,” insisting that other women had been through worse, as though the lack of gory details disqualified my trauma. Others later remarked they assumed it hadn’t been that big of a deal since I had only pursued informal measures. One encouraged me to get over it, like one should — as he described — forgive a boyfriend who has strayed.

These friends and the SHGB accepted the premise that many writers, including Nathaniel Zelinsky ’13 (“Truth in the Witt assault story,” Jan. 30), have been using when discussing Pat Witt: There’s real, violent rape, and then there’s the other, less serious stuff. And as it has repeatedly been implied, nothing that transpires between two people who were ever romantically entangled can fall in the first category.

I don’t know the alleged victim of Patrick Witt, nor do I assume that my experience resembles hers. But I do know that neither of our stories fits the popular conception of what rape looks like. We knew the men who we claim violated us. We didn’t go to the police. And many have discounted us because of this.

Again, I cannot speak to the thoughts of the anonymous victim. But I can promise you that being assaulted by a friend does not rank as any less bad than being assaulted by a stranger in some set hierarchy of harms. I can promise you my reasoning for pursuing an informal complaint was not that the whole thing wasn’t that big of a deal. Being assaulted by a young man I knew and then being silenced by Yale shook my trust in my relationships and my place at this school. The dizzying nausea of running into my assailant at parties, avoiding classes I thought he might shop and losing mutual friends has unfairly deprived me of a full Yale experience.

I said “No,” and a man decided it didn’t matter. That fact — whether or not I had bruises, whether or not I reported to the police — should matter to you.

The writer is an undergraduate.

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